Tzu Chi USA Gives Families Comfort in the Wake of Back-to-Back Earthquakes in Southern California

National Headquarters  |  July 29, 2019
A home lies in bedlam after back-to-back earthquakes in Ridgecrest, CA. Photo by James Huang.

Documented by Su Jen Li, Su Chen Huang, Michael Tseng, and Luca Yeh
Photos by James Huang
Edited by Pheel Wang (in Chinese) & Dilber Shatursun (in English)
Translated by Wei Qingjun (from Chinese)

Beginning on July 5th, earthquakes began to rattle the Mojave Desert in Southern California. The first measured 6.4 in magnitude; the second, measured 7.1. Tzu Chi USA immediately began monitoring the situation.

Then, on July 21, Tzu Chi volunteers arrived in nearby Ridgecrest, CA, to host a disaster relief distribution and carry out a disaster assessment of Trona, the epicenter of the shockwaves. On the way there, volunteers were shocked by the massive cracks on the road and damages houses and walls.

Michelle Brooke Porter shares her trauma with a Tzu Chi volunteer. Photo by James Huang
Roads show deep scars. Photo: James Huang.

For families whose homes were severely damaged during the quakes, the disaster encouraged them to focus on what was really important: family.

Some people really do take life for granted… I think at this point, it’s more so my children that are holding me together.

Though homes like Michelle’s had been torn through, community businesses and landmarks were not spared either. Shell manager Rogelio Sandoval stood in front of a visibly destroyed gas station, pointing to the large cracks on the ground and depicting the horror the earthquake caused.

Our tanks, our gas tanks, Shell Gas Station went into the ground deeper. It shook up a lot of our ground and there are cracks everywhere

Luckily, the gas tanks were not damaged and no one was hurt.

Jose Rodriguez’s home is so badly damaged it is unsafe to live in. Photo by James Huang.

Perhaps one of the greatest damages the twin earthquakes did was to damage people’s spirits. Many homes were blocked off and marked as unsafe. Homes were visibly broken. This left many families in either poor conditions, or worse: without a roof over their heads.

Jose Rodriguez, a local resident and care recipient, got teary eyed having received the kindness and compassion of Tzu Chi USA’s disaster relief. At the Ridgecrest distribution, his family received a cash card with $600 to go toward rebuilding his home. After hearing that many Tzu Chi volunteers drove in from near and far to volunteer to help families just like his, he welled up with emotion.

God bless these…God bless these people for helping us. If not, we wouldn’t have a place to live.

Jose and his wife receive their emergency financial aid via cash cards and eco-friendly blanket from Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo by James Huang.

In total, 70 families benefited from Tzu Chi’s earthquake relief efforts. Local resident and care recipient Maria Martinez expressed that though the cash card would not be enough to help her cover the month’s rent, that it was still a lifeline.

Tzu Chi already helped us a lot. We can buy food and other things. I’m thankful for you guys.

The inside of Maria Martinez’s now-destroyed home. Photo by James Huang.

In the end, too, Tzu Chi volunteers touched base with and offered relief side-by-side their longtime friends at the American Red Cross. No matter the situation, Tzu Chi USA is ready to work with as many people and parties as it can to ensure that all families can feel relief through suffering of seismic proportions.

Tzu Chi USA offers relief side-by-side the American Red Cross. Photo by James Huang.

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